It’s a new NIT bracket for a new year! Non-conference play has almost finished up, which means bracketologists have a much clearer picture of where teams (and conferences) stand heading into 2019. Conferences don’t get assigned bids, but they can sure hurt or improve their teams’ chances.
A few of the early season surprises have faded, but new ones are taking their places. The MAC is one of the most interesting conferences in college basketball right now. Everyone knows about Buffalo, but Ball St. (9-4) and Toledo (12-1) are legitimate postseason contenders. Both teams would benefit from taking down the Bulls in conference play, as at the moment their resumes are mostly built on taking care of business against weaker non-conference schedules.
The Ivy League also has an outside shot at grabbing an at-large berth to the NIT. The issues, though, appear to be two-fold. First, it’s quite possible that the top contenders all beat up on each other. The race appears to be at least four teams deep (and maybe five considering Princeton just won at Arizona State). Second, the 14-game conference schedule means none of the Ivy’s top contenders will finish with a gaudy win total. It’ll have to be a quality, not quantity argument. That’s why before New Year’s Eve, the logical argument would have been Penn, but the banged up Quakers lost in overtime at home to previously winless Monmouth to ring out 2018. That bad loss will be a tough one to overcome.
As a reminder, this bracket is a projection of what the NIT bracket will look like on Selection Sunday, which includes educated guesses about future performance by every team (using analytics sites such as KenPom and T-Rank). These major conference teams are not in this bracket because they’re projected to be under .500 at the end of the season: Utah, West Virginia, Penn St., Oklahoma St., Vanderbilt. (The Commodores are a team to watch though if they perform better than expected in the SEC.)
Last 8 NCAA At-Large Teams: Iowa, Louisville, St. John’s, Arizona St., LSU, Utah St., Arizona, Mississippi
NIT Bracket (bubble teams in italics) for games through Dec. 31, 2018:
1. San Francisco
4. Fresno St.
6. Ball St.
1. Saint Mary’s
4. Oregon St.
5. San Diego
7. Notre Dame
3. Miami (FL)
Next bracket: Early February